Intelligent automation • Viewpoints

The Inevitability of Technology Progression

By Stephanie Drenchen, Sr. Director Software Engineering, Bright Machines

Automation technologies are nothing new. Since the dawn of time, new inventions have been introduced into society with the ultimate goal to help improve our lives. From the wheel to the printing press, the powerful impact of automation is inevitable in shaping our future. And whether or not we welcome these advances with open arms, these forms of automation have had a profound impact on the way we produce, purchase and participate in our society.

Across today’s five living generations, we have collectively witnessed massive leaps in innovation that were fairly astounding in their debut. While we generally believe change is good, it hasn’t always been welcomed – especially when technological change is used as a scapegoat for job displacement. This false anecdote of technology replacing workers has been rippled throughout our history.

Contrary to over-hyped fears, automation technology doesn’t eliminate jobs, it just changes the types of jobs that we need. Looking back into the not-too-distant past, mathematicians were tasked with solving the same set of equations that we rely on calculators for today. Essentially, humans were operating as calculators. While the skills of mathematicians are still highly distinguished, we now have the Texas Instrument calculator, which has proven to be far more efficient for the average math need. Despite their extensive knowledge, mathematicians are still humans running on basic intuition, which allows for human error. The automation of math via calculators not only improved the overall accuracy of algorithms, but also freed up the time of highly analytical talent to solve more complex problems. It also improved the way we learn and work, aiding students without advanced degrees to solve math problems quickly and efficiently, and helping managers compute complex financial transactions so that business can flourish.

In the cases where progression is met with resistance, technology has a way of evolving beyond any attempts to regulate it, turning from a new idea into a necessity. A modern-day example of this can be found at a gas station. Drivers typically pump their own gas, with the exception of states like New Jersey and Oregon which still require station attendants. While these states are temporarily saving low-skill jobs, the reality is that carmakers are manufacturing much more sustainable electric vehicles that won’t require gas pumps at all.  With the global population running against the clock of catastrophic climate change, electric vehicles are one form of technology created to put a dent in the greatest human-made disaster of our time.

During the rise of the Industrial Revolution, people looked to technology to carry out tasks that were deemed more efficient for the production line, albeit unsafe for humans to complete. Today, that same challenge to simplify and improve factory floors is focused on creating safer production lines and freeing up workers from mundane, meaningless tasks. In both circumstances, jobs were not necessarily eradicated, they were just replaced with new roles needed to maintain automation technology and its various outputs. In fact, even the watchdogs of our workforce society have predicted that these inevitable changes will create 133 million new jobs as a result.

Bright Machines is proud to take part in this journey. We’re leveraging software, modern machine learning and computer vision to simplify factory floors and prioritize human conditions. As a company on the forefront of industrial automation, we know we have a responsibility to connect displaced factory workers with more engaging roles. Our team of futurists are galvanized by this challenge, and we’re already rolling up our sleeves to solve for the near-term labor problem without losing sight of the long-term benefit. As history has shown us, progression always wins. We will continue to see more humane jobs generated as repetitive, potentially dangerous roles fade out of demand.

The headlines are true – the robots are coming and they will permanently change how we think about the future of work. Fear not – there’s a lot to be excited about.


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